The specificity of neural responses to music and their relation to voice processing: an fMRI-adaptation study

Neurosci Lett. 2015 Apr 23;593:35-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2015.03.011. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Several studies have identified, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a region within the superior temporal gyrus that preferentially responds to musical stimuli. However, in most cases, significant responses to other complex stimuli, particularly human voice, were also observed. Thus, it remains unknown if the same neurons respond to both stimulus types, albeit with different strengths, or whether the responses observed with fMRI are generated by distinct, overlapping neural populations. To address this question, we conducted an fMRI experiment in which short music excerpts and human vocalizations were presented in a pseudo-random order. Critically, we performed an adaptation-based analysis in which responses to the stimuli were analyzed taking into account the category of the preceding stimulus. Our results confirm the presence of a region in the anterior STG that responds more strongly to music than voice. Moreover, we found a music-specific adaptation effect in this area, consistent with the existence of music-preferred neurons. Lack of differences between musicians and non-musicians argues against an expertise effect. These findings provide further support for neural separability between music and speech within the temporal lobe.

Keywords: Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Music perception; Musicianship; Repetition suppression; Voice processing; fMRI adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception
  • Voice / physiology*